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Virgin wi-fi rolls up two years late

Wrong kind of WiMAX

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Virgin has finally switched on wi-fi access on its trains, a mere two years after it was supposed to arrive.

The service is now available on all "Pendolino" trains operating on the West Coast Main Line, which the company tells us is around 70 per cent of the fleet. Wi-fi access comes in the form of T-Mobile hotspots, so is available to anyone signed up with T-Mobile.

When the project was announced, back in 2006, the schedule was to have the service operational during 2007. Virgin tells us the delay was caused by a desire to have pukka WiMAX kit rather than the pre-certified stuff that Nomad Digital, providers of the backhaul, used to connect up the Brighton and Heathrow Express trains.

Virgin told us they wanted the latest technology to avoid it becoming redundant as it was being deployed, though one could argue that that's exactly what's happening to WiMAX. Not that it matters here, as WiMAX is used to connect the speeding train to relay stations every few miles. ADSL or similar is then used to connect users to the internet, so even if WiMAX disappeared tomorrow, the service would continue to work perfectly well.

The rest of the Virgin fleet will also be wi-fi enabled over the next few months, though with 3G coverage and data tariffs improving daily, the service could find itself redundant before the technology does. ®

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